What should you practice?

Juan Soto is a 21 year old baseball player for the Nationals. After one of the games during the NLDS (National League Divisional Series), Juan had trouble batting. He did something that announcers still remark about 2 weeks later. He stayed after the game (already close to midnight local time at this point), and he worked with the batting coach to practice hitting against the shift — to pull the ball to where statistically players were least likely to be (yay sabermetrics).

Imagine that. At the time, a 20 year old player practicing hitting in a specific way at midnight with a batting coach when they have a game the very next day.

Juan ended up using that practice in the very next game to hit very well and help his team get ahead.

We tend to go through the motions as software developers. We’ll practice katas, sure, but we don’t think about intentional practice in the same ways other professions do (this anecdote could have been about doctors, dentists, or even members of the military or first responders). And maybe it doesn’t have to be like that for us? Maybe we’re special. After all, we rarely need to perform under pressure, and we rarely need to ‘hit a home run’ — most of the time the fundamentals are good enough.

But, what would that look like for us? Would it be TDD katas? That comes to mind. Would it be codewars? It could be. But really it’s not about practicing the things we do most often, it’s about practicing the things we don’t do every day — the things we need to get better at to be our most productive.

For me, it’s breaking tasks down and working on communicating effectively when what I’m working on is going to take longer than I thought. Sometimes it’s working on speaking less in meetings, and ensuring those that speak less are given the chance to contribute, and sometimes, it’s improving my CSS.

What are the things that you feel like you could practice?

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